The recently caught Brazos River record alligator gar wasn't the biggest ever caught in Texas, but it's likely one of the oldest.
Texas wildlife officials say a new alligator gar bowfishing record on the Brazos River was likely hatched in 1957.
That makes the 197-pound, 7.39-foot fish caught Sept. 9 by Isaac Avery of Longview, Texas, around 60 years old — among the oldest fish aged and documented by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department research biologists.
The fish, which beat the previous record by 4 pounds, also was found to have been tagged by TPWD researchers in 2012, the agency said in a news release.
"I tagged this fish near Tawakoni Creek, a large Brazos River tributary just down from Waco, back in March 2012 while doing a mark-recapture study," TPWD Inland Fisheries district biologist Michael Baird said in the news release. "It appears she hadn't moved much since we tagged her in 2012, and she grew approximately 65 mm (2.55 inches) since tagging."
The record-breaker was officially weighed at the Brazos Feed and Supply Store.
The Texas agency said the fish was aged using the fish's otoliths (bony structures from the inner ear), which have growth rings much like a tree.
"We aged the fish at 60, which indicates it hatched in 1957," said research biologist David Buckmeier. "I looked at the gauge data from Waco around that time and sure enough there was a huge flood from April to July in 1957. What we've seen is that fish over the age of 50 typically come from times when these huge flood pulses occurred, and those events likely create giant year classes of these fish."
Buckmeier said alligator gar typically do not spawn every year but prefer spawning habitat created by seasonal inundation of low-lying areas of vegetation — like the floods of 1957.
As big as Avery's fish was, it was still far from the state record bow-fished alligator gar — an 8-footer weighing 290 pounds caught in the Trinity River in 2001. The world record, caught in Mississippi, weighed 327 pounds.
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